Singapore pleads with public to ease ‘severe pressure’ on health care workers

A medical worker at a Singapore hospital. Photo: Jurong Health Campus/Facebook
A medical worker at a Singapore hospital. Photo: Jurong Health Campus/Facebook

Singapore is struggling to contain the spread of COVID-19 and keep health care facilities – and workers – from being overwhelmed.

Officials last night reported a new one-day high in confirmed cases with 26,032 infections and four deaths. The Ministry of Health begged those with mild cases to not hog emergency departments while it calls in reinforcements. 

While only 1,608 COVID-19 patients are in hospitals, 46 of whom are in intensive care, public hospitals were already hitting over 80% of bed occupancy earlier this month.

The disease has been spreading widely since the start of the year, fed by the highly infectious Omicron variant. The previous one-day high of 19,420 was set just eight days ago.

Of yesterday’s cases, the overwhelming majority – more than 25,700 – were local transmissions with 301 found in travelers from abroad. Over 87% of those with the disease are well or have only mild symptoms.

The Ministry of Health last night issued a plea for public cooperation that said hospitals, polyclinics and general practitioner clinics were “very busy,” with health care workers under “severe pressure.”

“We seek everyone’s continued effort and cooperation to do our part to preserve our medical resources for those who need them most,” the ministry wrote.

It said the surge in cases could take weeks to subside and is driving more demand for hospital beds, especially from those recovering from underlying chronic illnesses.

Thus, the ministry said it would be “ramping up” hospital capacity, diverting patients to private hospitals and encouraging more people to recover at home.

Health officials and medics from SG Healthcare Corps and the Singapore Armed Forces have been called in to support overtaxed civilian health care workers.

Opening hours at some Public Health Preparedness Clinics have been extended and telemedicine consultations will be available on weekends.

The ministry also urged employers to accept photographs of tests results or video evidence instead of sending infected employees to crowd clinics for medical certificates and recovery memos.

Only those in an emergency should rush to hospitals’ emergency departments, it added, noting that non-emergencies would be diverted to clinics.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung gave a pep talk to healthcare workers Monday in the form of a letter telling them to “hang in there for a while more.” He announced they would be getting more leave, and foreign workers could travel home without quarantine to the Philippines and India after restrictions for vaccinated travelers are lifted soon.

Singapore has recorded 622,293 COVID-19 cases and 956 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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